The Roots Of Parkinson’s In The Brain Discovered

Researchers from King’s College London have uncovered the earliest signs of Parkinson’s disease in the brain, many years before patients show any symptomsParkinson’s disease could be spotted in the brain more than a decade before symptoms emerge, scientists have discovered, raising hopes that early treatment could prevent the condition ever taking hold.

Researchers from King’s College London studied the brains of people living in the northern Peloponnese of Greece who suffer from a rare genetic mutation that makes Parkinson’s almost inevitable. Most will develop the disease in their 40s but scientists found that by their 20s and 30s they had already lost of up to 34 per cent of the brain cells that process the hormone serotonin. The damage had occurred even before symptoms developed, offering an early warning sign of the approaching disease. The results, published in The Lancet Neurology, challenge the traditional view of the disease and could potentially lead to screening tools for identifying people at greatest risk.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is characterised by movement and cognitive problems but is known to become established in the brain a long time before patients are diagnosed. Studying the crucial early stages of the disease, when treatment could potentially slow its progress, is a huge challenge.

The new study, funded by the Lily Safra Foundation, provides the first evidence of a central role for the brain chemical serotonin in the very earliest stages of Parkinson’s. The results suggest changes to the serotonin system could act as a key early warning signal for the disease. Chief investigator Professor Marios Politis, Lily Safra Professor of Neurology & Neuroimaging at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), says: ‘Parkinson’s disease has traditionally been thought of as occurring due to damage in the dopamine system, but we show that changes to the serotonin system come first, occurring many years before patients begin to show symptoms. Our results suggest that early detection of changes in the serotonin system could open doors to the development of new therapies to slow, and ultimately prevent, progression of Parkinson’s disease.’

Source: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/